Ocean acidification leaves clownfish deaf to predators

June 1, 2011
Ocean acidification leaves clownfish deaf to predators
The orange clownfish, Amphiprion percula. Image by Matthew Wittenrich

(PhysOrg.com) -- Since the Industrial Revolution, over half of all the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the ocean, making pH drop faster than any time in the last 650,000 years and resulting in ocean acidification. Recent studies have shown that this causes fish to lose their sense of smell, but a new study published today in Biology Letters shows that fish hearing is also compromised.

Working with Professor Philip Munday at James Cook University, lead author Dr Steve Simpson of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol reared larvae straight from hatching in different CO2 environments.

"We kept some of the baby clownfish in today's conditions, bubbling in air, and then had three other treatments where we added extra CO2 based on the predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 2050 and 2100," Dr Simpson said.

After 17-20 days rearing, Dr Simpson monitored the response of his juvenile clownfish to the sounds of a predator-rich coral reef, consisting of noises produced by and fish.

"We designed a totally new kind of experimental choice chamber that allowed us to play reef noise through an underwater speaker to fish in the lab, and watch how they responded," Dr Simpson continued. "Fish reared in today's conditions swam away from the predator noise, but those reared in the CO2 conditions of 2050 and 2100 showed no response."

This study demonstrates that ocean acidification not only affects external , but also those inside the body of the fish. The ears of fish are buried deep in the back of their heads, suggesting lowered may have a profound impact on the entire functioning of the .

The ability of fish to adapt to rapidly changing conditions is not known. Dr Simpson said: "What we have done here is to put today's fish in tomorrow's environment, and the effects are potentially devastating. What we don't know is whether, in the next few generations, fish can adapt and tolerate ocean acidification. This is a one-way experiment on a global scale, and predicting the outcomes and interactions is a major challenge for the scientific community."

Explore further: How to Grow a Bigger Brain

More information: Stephen D. Simpson, et al., Ocean acidification erodes crucial auditory behaviour in a marine fish, Biology Letters, published Wednesday 1 June 2011, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0293

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3 comments

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MarcoB
1.6 / 5 (7) Jun 01, 2011
What about the adverse effects of ocean acidification today that resulted from 100 years of industrial revolution, oh wait, not much, nothing to write about yet, but we promise, IPCC says it'll be really bad in the next 50-100 years, they can't somehow predict within 5 years an accurate picture or measurements, but somehow their magic works for 50 year projections, mmm this must be another goverment funded research project, what's that sucking sound? oh wait tax money going down the tube!
SemiNerd
4.7 / 5 (3) Jun 01, 2011
What about the adverse effects of ocean acidification today that resulted from 100 years of industrial revolution, oh wait, not much, nothing to write about yet, but we promise, IPCC says it'll be really bad in the next 50-100 years, they can't somehow predict within 5 years an accurate picture or measurements, but somehow their magic works for 50 year projections, mmm this must be another goverment funded research project, what's that sucking sound? oh wait tax money going down the tube!

Please don't make political/ideological/religious comments on a scientific forum. Look at the comment guild lines for more information.

I understand that you don't realize the vast quality of measurements that show the extent of oceanic acidification occurring today. That lack of knowledge disqualifies you from commenting.
dogbert
1.2 / 5 (5) Jun 01, 2011
Please don't make political/ideological/religious comments on a scientific forum.


When science is used to promote a political agenda, it is appropriate to note the political basis of the publication.

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